The Power of a Good Article Headline (and How to Write One)

How to write a good article headline

The basic principles of writing a good headline apply whether we’re talking about a blog post headline, Tweet, Facebook post or Instagram bio. Your audience will usually decide whether or not to click on your blog posts based on the headline alone, so if you want your blog posts to attract viral spread, the headlines you use are absolutely crucial.

Because article headlines determine how many people click on the article, which determines how visible it is, which determines how often it is shared, choosing an effective headline is as important as the content subject itself.

Good headlines get you on the way to viral spread. Bad headlines, no matter how good the post, will never get you the visibility you need.

Let’s take a look at some examples of good headlines that use a mixture of curiosity and, yes, a little sensationalism to brighten up some potentially boring subjects:

  • 6 Unbelievable Personal Injury Claims
  • At First, I Felt Sorry For The People Who Live In This Tiny House. Then I Looked Closer…Now I’m Jealous.
  • Britain: Bankrupt by 2017?
  • He’s Trying To Make Buses Sexy, And It’s Working
  • Canada’s Response To Russia’s Anti-LGBT Propaganda Law Is Totally Awesome
  • College degrees with the highest starting salaries
  • Eight surprising ways to increase productivity in the workplace
  • Empty Pigs: Why banks have given up on savers
  • Starbucks asks customers to leave their guns at home

Most of these are taken from viral sites like Buzzfeed, who have grown their entire business on tapping into viral spread due largely to the quality of their headlines.

So what’s the secret to writing a good headline? The most viral worthy headlines (and all of the above) use a ‘curiosity gap’. They leave the reader with an open loop in their head that they just have to close: “tiny house? I wonder what it looks like and why people are jealous of it?” The point of the headline is to sell the click. Once the visitor is on the page, the images and content have to keep them there.

Many of them also skillfully use emotion, whether it’s fear (“Britain: Bankrupt by 2017?”) or anger (“Empty Pigs: why banks have given up on savers”).

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How to Write a Great Blog Post Headline

Publishers like BuzzFeed above and media outlets such as The Independent UK have years of experience of testing what works and their ‘How To’ strategy can easily be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Select your focus keywords (dentist in Dublin, plumber in Portsmouth, etc)
    2 Insert intriguing psychological adjectives (Incredible, Essential, Best)
  2. Personalise the headline (Your Day Will Be Easier With…, You Can’t Live Without…)
  3. Make it concise (Shorter headlines work best)
  4. Insert a number/Make it a list (Number headlines are 19% more successful than “How To’s” on average)
  5. Try a different title for each network. Review which one is working and change the others to match.

Testing Your Headline

Headline writing is part art, part science and part relentless determination. You’re unlikely to smash it out of the park in your first attempt; in fact, if it takes you twenty attempts to get one you like, you’re doing better than some of the world’s best writers; Upworthy requires its writers to ‘crap out’ twenty-five headlines for every good one they write.

By constantly testing new headlines and reviewing which ones are getting the most shares, you will fine tune your intuition for crafting powerful headlines for even the most troublesome of subjects, and once you’ve settled upon the final three or four that you think might work it’s worth passing them through the CoSchedule Headline Analyser for a brief overview of how wordy it may be, how powerful the psychology of it is to convince people to click, and how it will look when people search for it in Google — where a large portion of your traffic should be found.

What’s your most successful headline to date?

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